5A.3 Climatology and scenarios of landfalling Texas hurricanes: 1851–2006

Friday, 13 November 2009: 2:25 PM
Tanveerul Islam, Florida A&M University, Tallahassee, FL

The lack of public attention to preparedness for hurricanes and other potentially catastrophic disasters is a persistent phenomenon in American society. Most of the published materials on hurricanes are too demanding of time or technical expertise to meet the requirements of being "usable science" that might inform public planning or private investment in coastal counties and cities. This study provides a place-based approach to the organization and analysis of historic hurricane information in the context of informing decision-making in urban planning, disaster management and mitigation, and natural resource stewardship on the Texas coast. The metrics used here for "usable science" include visual representations of hurricane histories based on state-of the-art data and robust basic statistics, combined with a relatively brief explanatory text that can be understood by a broad range of interested citizens.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) hurricane track information for storms hitting Texas between 1851 and 2006 has been analyzed according to origin, intensity, speed of approach to the coast, and date. This analysis shows a significant percentage (54%) of the storms formed in the Gulf of Mexico with an even higher percentage for storms that hit the upper Texas coast. Although the overall temporal distribution generally shows the well known pattern of storm activity in August and September, Texas storms that form in the Gulf of Mexico have a significantly different temporal landfall pattern. The study also focuses on historic hurricanes that pose special challenges to emergency managers because of their rapid formation and landfall on the Texas coastline. All too often, hurricane planning is primarily informed by the most recent serious event, or by generic scenarios that do not reflect important regional hurricane characteristics that are "knowable" from historic records. By reconstructing scenarios of historic hurricanes that formed and made landfall rapidly on the Texas coastline, the study suggests that these storms are especially challenging for emergency planners, citizens, and public officials.

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